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Writers on Writing: Selected Quotations


In referring to serious writers who sold themselves out to Hollywood, a character in Rod Serling’s play, “Velvet Alley,” says: “They give you a thousand dollars a week. And they keep on giving you a thousand dollars a week until that’s what you need to live on. And then every day you live after that, you’re afraid they’ll take it away from you. It’s all very scientific. It’s based on the psychological fact that a man is a grubbing, hungry little sleaze….In twenty-four hours you can develop a taste for caviar. In forty-eight hours fish eggs are no longer a luxury, they’re a necessity.”

The big fear is if you work in film, you may stop writing novels. Or, you’ll become like all those writers who were ruined by Hollywood, Faulkner and Fitzgerald, who go over to the dark side and my never come back. Richard Russo

(Hollywood is) a whore with flaccid tits and sandpaper skin swinging a dead ass covered with the stink of a railroad station pissery. Ben Hecht

(Hollywood is) a dreary industrial town controlled by hoodlums of enormous wealth, the ethical sense of a pack of jackals, and taste so degraded that it befouled everything it touched. S. J. Perelman

I went to Hollywood to make money. It’s very simple. The people are friendly and the food is good, but I’ve never been happy there, perhaps because I only went there to pick up a check. John Cheever

If Hollywood wants to prostitute me by buying one of my books for the movies, I am not only willing, but eager for the seducers to make their first dastardly proposal. Thomas Wolfe

My own belief is that pictures needn’t hurt a writer, but that they probably will. If he could merely work for them they would teach him a lot, particularly about concision and the necessity for building a story before trying to sell it. But he rarely stops there. Having as a rule little critical sense, he begins to believe in them, talk of the screen as a “great medium,” and so on, and that sinks him. Pictures are entertainment if they entertain you, but to allow them any validity beyond that one night is to be silly. James M. Cain

Producers of films tend to involve writers of books in the moviemaking process as little as possible, for the sensible reason that it’s hard enough to make a film without having an interested amateur meddling in the process. Tony Hillerman

I’m not interested in getting a job in Hollywood. I have no desire in the world to write a movie script. Why the hell should I write a movie script? Scriptwriting has nothing to do with writing. The best scriptwriter in the world, ideally, would be a film editor with a novelistic gift. And those are qualities that don’t usually go together. Norman Mailer

I call directors plagiarists because they, literally, steal the script. Now this is done in a very sly fashion. First, they go to a writer for a script, because very few of them can write themselves—very few of them can direct, either. Once the script is acquired, they bring in a second writer in order to confuse authorship, so, just to make it tidy, they say, “Well, I guess I’ll take the credit.” Gore Vidal

Hollywood is a long shot on the best of days. To let it influence the novel is a disservice to you and your readers. David Baldacci

This page was last updated on: Tuesday, January 22, 2008

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A. James Fisher
Dept. of Political Science & Criminal Justice, 146 Hendricks Hall
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro, PA 16444
e-mail: jfisher@edinboro.edu blog: http://jimfishertruecrime.blogspot.com